Meet the Fashion Legend Behind CARP’s LBGTQ Pink Chapter
Canadian Fashion legend Wayne Clark discusses the struggles of aging in the youth-obsessed Gay Community.
I hate birthdays, they’re always disappointing. I mean, nobody gives me a Mercedes,” says Canadian fashion designer Wayne Clark, who turns 60 this year. “I want fur coats! I want jewelry! I want to be overwhelmed, and it never happens.”
While he kids about his wish list, Clark does admit being a little overwhelmed by a looming retirement. “My biggest fear is that I can’t earn a living — destitute and at the mercy of the world,” he says. “I have to face the reality that I may not be able to carry my groceries up the stairs one of these days, just like everybody else.”
This is one of the main reasons Clark is the face behind the new Pink Chapter of CARP, the newest support network for Canada’s rapidly aging gay community. This new LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual) initiative is in its infancy but poised to bring an energized advocacy for gay people in Canada, as they age alongside their straight boomer counterparts.
Clark’s name is synonymous with the glamorous evening gowns that he has been whipping up for more than 30 years. Women as diverse as actor Jane Fonda and singing star Rihanna have all enjoyed the luxe elegance a Wayne Clark dress can bestow. Being part of the hit TV show Project Runway Canada helped introduce his work to a new generation of fashion followers and, like a lot of internationally successful designers, the client list is both long and loyal.
“I knew early on that fashion was the profession I wanted,” he says. “But growing up in Calgary, you might as well tell your parents you want to be a tap dancer.”
Luckily, his grandfather got him into the Alberta College of Art and Design, which led to fashion studies at Sheridan College just outside Toronto.
A stint with British fashion designer Hardy Amies followed in the 1970s — a man who knew a thing or two about how to grow old gracefully, as couturier-in-residence at Buckingham Palace for Queen Elizabeth II until his retirement in 2001. “He was either all in or all out, working really hard or not working at
all,” Clark says of his former mentor who died in 2003 at 93.